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I was very perturbed several years ago when the county decided to go ahead with the Trinity Site Project; then I had high hopes that it would simply die quietly, and now that it came back to life, I am even more perturbed.
Let me explain my reasons why I am totally opposed to a resumption of this endeavor.
Years ago this county created a master plan for the development of downtown Los Alamos. This plan was modified on and off, but fundamentally remained intact. Each time the basic premise remained to center the development of downtown on the intersection between Central Avenue and 15th Street.
The downtown area should be beautiful, compact, enhancing pedestrian traffic, and comfortable for citizens and visitors alike. The first step was the connector between Central Avenue and the Central Plaza. The second was the construction of a Civic Center east of Ashley Pond.
Unfortunately it did not fly, because it ended up being too expensive. But the Bradbury Science Museum and the YMCA started to round off the picture.
The hope that the downtown development would continue as had been planned for years was dramatically shattered, when the Los Alamos School Board wanted to sell its property in order to acquire needed funds.
Through a highly questionable campaign the School Board together with an aggressive developer convinced the citizens to vote for an Ordinance 596, which made the Trinity Site development a county enterprise. I like to remind the people who have a short memory of a meeting in the old golf course building, where the school board managed to convince the county council to join forces.
The schools had assembled dozens of innocent children to wave flags. The flag waving was supported by a number of highly emotional pleas by several ladies who “could not find cheap diapers in this town”. No wonder the council was swayed, and an agreement was signed.
The other ruse of getting the voters to vote for the ordinance was to include amongst others the by-pass road to the ski hill. This added automatically the entire ski club to vote for the ordinance. The road project was dropped later because of topographical difficulties.
However, the Trinity Site project was pushed along. The ordinance combined with the exceptionally generous help of the developer and the self-serving pressure by the schools “forced” the council to proceed with one but not the other project. Same ordinance!
Let us now move forward in time. The real issue is twofold. Does Los Alamos need more retail space, and if so why not in a location that would complement the master plan?
First, 30 to 40 years ago there was enough retail space to accommodate just about any type of store that the citizens wanted or needed. Why did all these stores disappear during the last two decades?
They disappeared because the younger generation preferred to do their shopping off the hill. The more they shopped outside the faster the stores disappeared, a vicious circle.
This clearly means, we do not need more retail space; instead we need to persuade the town’s people to buy their goods here.
Where is the space for retail in line with the master plan? Walk around where most of the pedestrian traffic exists already today and you will find the Central Park Square, the Ruby Kay Square, Central Avenue, the Metzger Square and the Chamber of Commerce Square, not to forget the Los Alamos Plaza on the south side of the pond.
Should we need more space (highly unlikely) we could expand to the east behind the CB Fox store and to the south between Community Bank and Los Alamos National Bank. The presently existing buildings in this area are a terrible eyesore and should be replaced.
So, why in this world does the county want to abandon the old idea of a compact pedestrian friendly downtown and instead promote aggressively an expansion that does not fit at all.
In my mind the uninspiring Mari-Mac shopping center is already enough of an eyesore and liability considering the shabby and ill maintained parking lot.
Does the county really want to add another asphalt nightmare? And who is holding the empty bag when this enterprise fails? I presume the taxpayers.
In conclusion, I strongly recommend that the county withdraw from the existing arrangement with the school board and let the schools sell or lease the land to their desire.
The county council must live by the promise that was made by its predecessors to us tax-paying citizens, i.e. continue to follow the master plan and adjust it to the new realities of this century.